Volkagen Eurovan Intermittent starting failure - a stumper!

We have a 2001 Eurovan. It will start fine, run for 1 second, then die - as if being killed by the security immobilizer.


- it’s an intermittent problem. Once it kills the engine, it will keep killing it until we leave it for half an hour or so. Then it (may) start fine. (Had to leave it overnight once.)

- the VW dealer seems stumped.

- no warning lights are on after the engine is killed (other than battery)

They have replaced:

- the key coil sensor around the ignition

- the wire leading to the security computer

- the security computer

- the main ECM computer

- all the keys

After the last service (main ECM computer), we had no problems for 2 weeks, but now (of course, while we are on a road trip to Utah), it’s started doing it again.

No pattern as to it doing it after long or short drive- just intermittent.

Runs fine once it stays started.

A downer, as now we dont trust that we wont be stranded in a remote part of Canyonlands, or Zion, (which of course is what we came to see) with a car that wont start and no cell service. (And it has been overnight before we could get it started, sometimes.)

Any idea/help/advice?


No car advice, but you really should take in Bryce Canyon too.

Without knowing if the problem is due to lack of spark or fuel (along with a number of other things including any codes that may be present) it will be near impossible to make much of a guess at this.

Has anyone considered the possibility of a failing ignition switch? (electrical part, not the key and tumbler) This is something I would have looked at before throwing that laundry list of parts at it; pricy parts at that.

A quick look at ALLDATA shows a campaign in existence for ignition coils. A campaign is a voluntary Recall but it often has a time or mileage limit. Whether this is a freebie that you’re entitled to I have no idea.
There’s also a TSB (tech. service bulletin) about “unnecessary replacement of the ECM”. Ahem Maybe this applies in your case.

About all I can suggest is that when the vehicle will not start is that it be checked for a spark at the plugs and/or take a can of aerosol carb cleaner and spray a healthy shot into the air intake or an intake manifold vacuum hose and attempt to start it. If it does not start then the ignition part of the vehicle should be looked at. (And if this isn’t mind-numbing enough, the switch, the fuel pump, and the pump controls are tied in to this also.)

Not much to work with there unfortunately, but there’s just not enough info known to make more than a stab in the dark at this.

So I’m fairly car ignorant - but I’m assuming it’s not the spark, or ignition switch, as the engine does “start” - it will run, and if I floor it then, it will happily rev to several thousand rpm - but then shutdown within a second or so.

Re codes - the VW service center says there are none. (There was one the very first time, indicating an ECM fault, but nothing during the last 3 service visits.)

Does that provide any more useful info?
And any guidance on finding a car shop that can diagnose this?

If we thought we could get back, and not be stuck out there with a car that wont start - we would.

The point about the ignition switch is that when you first turn the key to the START position the fuel pump will be primed and the ignition (that fires the spark plugs, etc.) will be energized.

The engine will start at that point but when you release the key, and if the switch is bad in a certain position, electrical power may be lost to the ignition components and a number of other things that are related to the engine running.

That’s a horribly basic way of putting it. The only way of checking this would be to catch the vehicle not starting and then using a test light or voltmeter to make sure that power is provided to where it should be with the key in the RUN position, not the START position.

I’m sorry I can’t be of more help on this issue but without physically having hands on the vehicle it can be a pretty murky situation.
Just a thought, but maybe you could try contacting the regional office of Volkswagen of America and see if they could maybe work hand in hand with the dealer on solving this.

When I worked for VW they had an outstanding regional service rep who sometimes got involved with a few problems. He was not outstanding as a mechanic but due to his position he was privy to hearing common complaints, including the oddball things that happen, and their cures so he did provide some valuable insight at times.

I had several expensive components replaced as well.
Check the ignition switch, it is a plastic part with metal contacts.
When the plastic gets too hot it warps, often not allowing electricity to be
In the required range to operate. Your vehicles symptoms are very similar to what I remember with our weekender.

Like OK4450, I tend to think the trouble is due to a lack of fuel. This could be due to simply a bad fuel pump relay. To see if there is a fuel delivery problem simply spray a small amount of starter fluid into the intake while the engine is running and see if you can keep it running by adding short brusts of fluid when the engine trys to die.

I have no idea if this relates and it likely does not due to lapse in time.

However the engine (VR6) in Eurovan’s is susceptible to a slipped timing chain due a poorly design sprocket. It is excessively expensive to fix ($3500-$5000) as the entire engine and transmission are removed. Many times they recommend replacing the transmission at same time since it is prone to failure.

Two friends have owned the “anti” minivan minivan. They were bankrupted. At least when they sold their you can get a lot of money. There are unknowing buyers who are willing to pay top dollar.

I hope it is really simple. Enjoy your trip.

Can you research and find out what system is “immobilized” (either fuel or spark) by the imobilizer system?